What Google Searches Tell Us About The Growth Of The CBD Industry
These days Cannabidiol (or CBD) is one of the most recognisable names in the wellness industry. Originating from a niche place in self-care groups, the rise of CBD into the public eye has been nothing short of meteoric.
CBD can now be found everywhere, seeing a rapid growth across the world that has persisted despite some significant push-back. Through economic downturns, unexpected changes in regulations and even the monumental impact of an international pandemic, nothing has stopped the incredible spread of CBD.
This success has come in part due to the burgeoning international cannabis industry and the popular explosion of the health and wellness movement. Already a multi-billion dollar industry, CBD has the potential to become a major international economic force and a cornerstone in public awareness.
The demand for CBD products within individual nations can tell us a lot about the pace and nature of the CBD industry’s growth. This is how five major English-speaking territories (the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and Ireland) have reacted to the unprecedented success of CBD.
The United States commands both the largest single supply and largest collective demand for CBD products in the world. With laws regarding CBD that vary state by state, the US CBD market is a complex juggernaut of economic force.
Although the demand for CBD across the US has risen and fallen over the last twelve months, it consistently remains one of the world’s most active CBD markets.
It’s largest hotspots can be found in the south, particularly in Texas. The cities of Austin, Fort Worth and San Antonio display the largest demand for CBD, with Austin outperforming its more populous counterparts.
Much of this success can be attributed to the United State’s extensive cannabis industry. Beginning in 2012, every passing year has seen the law regarding cannabis adapt as individual states either decriminalise or fully legalise the substance.
This has encouraged a massive growth in the US cannabis industry, which in turn has helped to provide an ample supply of raw material for the CBD industry to grow from. Today the United States remains one of the most active exporters of CBD to the world market, with American sourced CBD becoming a watchword for quality.
Closely following this level of demand is the UK, another worldwide trendsetter for CBD use. Despite being vastly different from the US market, containing no extensive cannabis industry and importing the majority of it’s raw CBD, UK demand is following an equally impressive trend.
Rising and falling in a less dramatic way than its US counterpart, the UK market for CBD is still impressively sized. Projections for market size that were made in 2019 were exceeded by more than 30% in April, displaying the eminent success of CBD despite a significant dip in late 2020 due to the economic impact of Covid-19.
The specific demand for CBD is concentrated largely in the Northwest and Northeast, with Merseyside in particular forming a huge portion of the national demand. Birkenhead takes first place as displaying the strongest demand for CBD, outperforming much larger cities and even the adjacent Liverpool by a significant degree. Glasgow and Belfast are also key players, showing the strength of CBD demand in key UK cities all across the nation.
UK manufacturers enjoy a vast export business, enhanced by their developments of new products that lead the CBD world in innovation. Despite the trade limitations imposed by Brexit the UK has continued to maintain this reputation as the world’s source of innovative CBD products.
The FSA’s deadline for Novel Food License applications in April of this year certainly caused a visible shift in the demand for CBD. The introduction of this high barrier-for-entry into the CBD industry brought its existence to the awareness of many. Though its impact on smaller CBD manufacturers was undeniably felt, the increase in demand experienced throughout April and May is indicative of the confidence this enforcement of higher standards provided.
As the UK CBD market continues to grow its visible impact on worldwide CBD trends will no doubt increase. This success will, hopefully, be matched by an equally adaptive shift in legislation that will allow UK producers and manufacturers to truly reap the rewards of this plentiful CBD demand.
Canada is a close third in CBD demand, demonstrating both a strong home market and displaying the influence of the nearby US. The peaks and dips in demand follow a roughly similar pattern to those of the US, though the differences are indeed stark enough to prove the uniqueness of Canada’s CBD community.
This demand is focused almost entirely within the province of Ontario. With the exception of Kelowna, the most significant regions for CBD demand are all smaller towns within the vicinity of Toronto.
This is an example of one particular way CBD can spread where, due to market competition and legislative restrictions, CBD demand will diffuse away from larger population centers and find its root in smaller communities.
In Canada CBD exists in a legal grey area, being strictly considered a cannabis product. This means that it follows the same regulatory demands as other cannabis products, most of which revolve around the question of its use for either medicinal or recreational purposes.
The accessibility of CBD therefore varies province-by-province, being easily accessible in some and significantly difficult to obtain in others. This ultimately results in a CBD market that is both concentrated in a few key provinces and heavily reliant on nearby US imports.
Long awaited clarification on CBD's legal status is due to be published sometime within the next year, which will doubtlessly help to open the Canadian market further. Once a clear line is drawn between CBD and cannabis, Canada is likely to see a significant increase in both imports and home manufacturing, helping to pull this budding CBD market out of its downward spiral.
Australia has an exceedingly large potential market, but it is hampered by CBD’s unusual status within the nation. Australian law considers CBD to be a purely medicinal substance, discounting the high recreational demand that is evident in other markets to instead embrace its use as a product to promote wellness.
Like Canada, demand for CBD in Australia is focused largely on one region, notably the south-east coast. This corresponds with some of the nation's largest urban areas, and it is in these cities where demand is greatest.
Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide all enjoy a high level of CBD demand. This has resulted in a heavy CBD presence in areas whose populations number in the several million rather than the hundreds of thousands, making it one of the most heavily urbanised CBD economies.
It is possible that this is the result of the strictly medicinal approach to CBD taken in Australia, lending itself to areas with greater institutional impact and a more consistent supply.
A recent piece of legislation has for the first time allowed for the purchase of low-strength CBD oils without medical prescription. This has visibly expanded the Australian market since August of 2020, but CBD itself is still very much advertised and largely used for purely medicinal purposes.
As a result, the Australian market continues to lag behind those of other nations. Whilst it is illegal to import CBD products into Australia, very few Australian manufacturers have received the necessary approval to produce them at home. The result is a CBD market with a respectably high demand but a shockingly low supply, all of which is constricted by an exceedingly limited product range.
Ireland has the smallest CBD market of all the major English-speaking economies, with demand seeing occasional spikes but largely remaining low. Like Australia, this seems to be due primarily to the specific laws that apply to CBD in Ireland.
Like in the UK, the recent requirement of a Novel Foods Licence has resulted in some increase in Irish CBD demand through both greater exposure and higher standards.
This demand is focused almost entirely within larger cities, with Cork and Dublin taking the majority of the attention. Unfortunately the data regarding CBD demand in Ireland is more limited than in other territories meaning that, although we know the demand is high in these cities, it’s appeal in other areas is unknown.
Irish legislation prohibits the sale of any amount of THC, meaning that only broad spectrum or isolate CBD products are legally available for purchase.
Although several other countries also enforce this kind of restriction, Ireland pays particular attention to the extraction method used to separate CBD from its source. Allowing only CO2 and solvent-based extraction methods, this is just another factor that restricts the supply of the Irish CBD market.
Though overall Irish CBD demand remains small, still recovering from a significant drop during March of this year, it’s fair to expect the Irish market to begin expanding as these regulations take full effect.
In all of these nations it is clear that CBD demand is a constantly shifting thing. Each territory has experienced distinct peaks and troughs in interest throughout the last twelve months, but in general we can observe a resilience in the demand for CBD that has overcome all manner of barriers.
Unexpected world events, restrictive changes to legislation and economic crises have all had their impact on both supply and demand. The prominence of CBD use in any territory depends largely on the nation in question. Its specific laws and its approach to CBD, whether it is considered predominantly medicinal or recreational, are two of the biggest factors in determining demand.
This is assisted by the sheer size of a nation, the health of its economy and its geographical place in the world which, as we see in the relationship between the Canadian and US CBD markets, can influence adjacent territories.
Ultimately, the most prominent economic territories of the English speaking world have each had a unique reaction to the growing CBD industry. Though some are seeing a spike in interest whilst others are experiencing dips, the collective trend is indicative of the worldwide response to CBD. It is growing, with each year producing higher quality products at a consistently greater demand.
Citations & Methods
This report was collated using data gleaned from the Google Trends system. The method consisted of tracking the search popularity of the keyword "CBD" in five separate territories (The United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and Ireland) over a 12 month period.